Golf, Squash, and Marathons

November 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

When Bryan deployed to Iraq in March 2008, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I’d never experienced anything like it, and six months seemed like such a long time to be separated from the one you love. The morning I dropped him off at Luke Air Force Base and said goodbye, I remember sobbing hysterically the entire drive home, so much so that I had to pull the car over at one point. My roommate Karin took the day off to be with me, though, and she comforted me withe a day of pedicures, lunch, and girl talk. With the support of Karin, my other friends, and my family, I quickly became determined to be strong and really focus on myself during that time. The long, lonely summer was approaching and, since I was a teacher and had the entire summer free, I decided to make the most of it by devoting myself to getting healthy and exercising. I had visions in my head of greeting Bryan and the airport, and those fantasies are what got me through some of the worst days during that time.

I had always wanted to be “a runner,” but I couldn’t even jog around the block without getting so out of breath I had to stop. I didn’t even know how to start trying to build up my lung endurance. Then I read about the Couch to 5K program on PastaQueen, one of my favorite blogs about a girl who lost half her body weight and blogged through it all. Apparently, through the incremental weekly running program, anyone could go from being able to run just 1 minute at a time, to running an entire 5K. The plan looked pretty doable, and I downloaded these amazing podcasts by Robert Ullrey that motivated me along the way. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I ran on the treadmill at LA Fitness, and the podcasts told me when to walk and when to jog and provided energizing music to keep me going.

It was really difficult at first. I truly could barely run for 1 minute when I first started. But the slow progression of the program really worked. My endurance improved slowly but surely (and my fantasy of meeting Bryan at the airport and impressing him with my new fitness helped a lot, not going to lie), but I think my favorite part was just the feeling of accomplishment that I could finally run. I could call myself a runner and people didn’t die laughing. Yes, I stuck to the treadmill, which I know is easier than the actual open road–but if you were running in Phoenix in July, so would you.

That was over a year ago. I can now run for about 30 minutes without stopping, albeit at a slow, 12 minute mile pace. Running on the treadmill is still much easier, but ever since I moved to Boston I’ve been trying to run outside whenever possible. I like the feeling of actually going somewhere. It feels more natural to run outside, and I feel like my breathing and form also feel more comfortable. Some downsides are the horrible Boston roads and sidewalks, the dangerous Boston drivers (I seriously feel like I’m in a life-or-death game of Frogger every time I run outside), and the lack of nature.

My friend Mischa recently suggested that I try running around Fresh Pond or along the Charles River–both of which, from my apartment, would be around 4 miles round trip. That means that if I’m going to break free from my urban shackles, I’m going to have to up my mileage and my endurance. I’ve come a long way from my days of 1-minute jogging intervals, but running anything over 3 miles is still not happening. So I have two new motivation tools that I think will help me reach my big goal: run a half-marathon by May! Bryan, who is training for the Okinawa Marathon in March, has even agreed to come to Boston and run the Boston “Run to Remember” Half-Marathon with me on May 30. There is a slight chance that I will have started a new job in another city by then, so if May 30 comes and it turns out that I’m not living in Boston, I will have to find a different half marathon, but for now that race is my goal.

How am I going to go from 5K to a Half-Marathon?

1. Podrunner Intervals– this podcasts are like the Robert Ullrey Couch to 5K podcasts, but even better, because they go all the way to 10K, and instead of interrupting you with voice cues, they use music cues. And the techno music they use is awesome! I download these to my iPhone, which I wear on a bulky band on my arm…but it’s the heavy iPhone band is worth it because of my next tool…

2. Runkeeper! This is absolutely amazing: it’s a free iPhone app that allows you to use your iPhone’s GPS to track your runs, mapping them and recording your speed, average pace, distance, and # of feet climbed. It stores your information on your iPhone and online. One of my favorite parts of Runkeeper is that you can compile a “Street Team“, which is basically an online community of your friends that use Runkeeper too. Your Street Team can see all of your runs, so you can motivate each other and compare mileage, speed, etc. Who is in my Street Team right now? That’s probably an easy guess–Bryan! So far, it’s just us, but anyone else who has an iPhone and likes to run or wants to start running should seriously download Runkeeper and start using it! It’s so motivating to run, and then come home and see all your stats recorded online for you!

So stay tuned for more running updates and, if you are my friend on Facebook or Twitter, keep an eye out for my Runkeeper updates there (one of the other great things about Runkeeper is that it lets you share your runs instantly on FB and Twitter…another great accountability tool).

Oh, and about the title of this post: A friend of mine here at HLS recently remarked that, to make it in the corporate world, she heard that you have to play golf, squash, or run marathons. I definitely don’t plan on taking up golf or squash. So I guess marathons it is! I’m a looooong way from being able to run 26 miles, but I think that eventually I would love to go for the whole thing! For now, though, I’ll stick with improving on my current 2-3 milers.


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